Most major corporations employ a CMO –– a Chief Marketing Officer. This C-level executive is supported by a staff of dozens or hundreds of marketing specialists. The larger the corporation, the larger the marketing department.

Some marketing specialists deal with planning, others with market research, social media, customer service, branding, or sales promotion. If you didn’t know better, you’d think you were looking at an autonomous marketing agency living within the corporation.

Smaller businesses don’t have the luxury of this vast resource of experts and professionals. But, as always, they have choices.

When it comes to marketing, the most obvious approach for owners of smaller businesses is that they personally take ownership of all marketing activities. It’s not a bad decision. After all, owners are closer to their businesses, their products and services, and their customers than anyone.

The problem is they already have many hats to wear and the marketing hat is a big one. (The task of feeding Facebook can become a full-time job in and of itself.) Plus, they might have a very narrow view of marketing, basing what they create and deploy on what they personally like.

Or, an obvious choice is to seek help from the outside. This help can come from their local printer –– the one that has a couple of people in the back room that set type and design flyers –– or a marketing specialist, consultant, or small agency. If they go the marketing consultant route, they quickly learn no two marketing consultants are alike. Each has his or her special skills and areas of expertise. One may be expert at expanding your reach into global markets. Another may have a knack for launching new products or services, but be bored to death with routine day-to-day marketing activities. Although some have diverse credentials and talents, it’s hard to find the one perfect consultant.

One of the shortcomings associated with hiring a consultant is that they don’t stay around very long. They work on a project or two, and then they’re gone.

So that brings us to the next choice for smaller businesses.

That is to bring in a contract marketing director. This part-time addition to their staff (and it’s part-time simply because it typically doesn’t require a full-time involvement) provides CMO-type leadership — strategy, marketing planning, and then supervising the implementation of various programs. The outsourced marketing director keeps the business’ marketing activities on a specific course, hiring out specialized services as needed.

From my vantage point, one of the primary differentiator between a marketing consultant and the outsourced marketing director is that while the consultant is looking to sell something to the business owner (services or programs) the outsourced marketing director is helping the business owner make better and wiser marketing decisions and appropriate marketing investments.

He’s a sounding board for the owner and then boots on the ground to get a campaign up and running. He’s also focused on short-term and long-term goals, planning many months out.

The outsourced marketing director is an active member of the management team. He just doesn’t live at the office on a daily basis.

Personally, I’m spending more and more time these days in the role of outsourced marketing director. It’s good for me because I get to be a part of long term planning and it’s good for the organization because I get to know their business inside and out. I become more valuable to them.